Swept Away (1974)

"Very Good"

Swept Away (1974) Review


Fully titled Swept Away... by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August, the classic Swept Away has the rich and blonde Raffaella (Mariangela Melato) and the poor and scraggly Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini) washed ashore -- swept away, if you will -- on a deserted island in the Mediterranean Sea.

It's Gilligan's Island, writ small. Seriously, it is! The movie boils down to petty squabblings between the two Italians. When they're on the yacht, with Raffaella's friends and Gennarino's crewmates, she treats Gennarino like dirt, complaining about overdone pasta and all but making the man wash her underwear.

When they get to the island, and Raffaella needs Gennarino's skills to survive, the tables are turned. Gennarino turns on the "dirty whore" with a vengeance. In fact, he does make her wash his underwear as he turns her into his personal slave.

The subtext here isn't terribly deep from the surface. This is a movie about class warfare and gender roles, emphasis on the battle between rich and poor. Gennarino's against "capitalists" of any sort. Raffaella just can't understand why the help smells so bad. Gennarino is getting vengeance for years of abuse, and who can blame him? In fact, before the film is even half over he's turned completely vicious, an animal who Raffaella ironically requires for survival. Things get even stranger when a love story develops.

Director Lina Wertmüller (that's right, a woman) unfortunately makes the proceedings so mean and cruel that it's hard to enjoy the irony of their situation. Gennarino's brutality ultimately becomes exactly that -- no quarter granted, leaving us to wonder if either character has learned anything during their time on the island. You wince when Gennarino bitch-slaps his former employer. Then again, that's part of the idea. But social warfare just isn't easy, is it?

Guy Ritchie remade this film in 2002 with his wife Madonna in the lead role (in fact, she and Melato look a lot alike), and all reports point to the remake being a disaster. The problem with the new Swept Away is just the opposite of the original: not enough cruelty. One suspects that a film that landed in the middle ground wouldn't work well either.

Now released on DVD, the disc is a pretty budget production and doesn't even have time codes embedded into it. Ah, well, perhaps it was swept away...

Aka Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto.



Facts and Figures

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Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Lina Wertmüller

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